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November 8, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Fire escape signs

Days_road Peter Edmondson writes:

This is what happened when a friend of mine asked the contractor to put up some fire escape signs in their office in Bristol City Council.


anyone ever seen one of those 'bang head here for stress relief' signs? they need a similar one here.

Posted by: gmangw at November 8, 2005 12:23 AM

well obviously there's an invisible door in the corner of the wall where you can walk through and be teleported to saftey. so the signs are pointing in the right direction after all.

Posted by: Nathan at November 8, 2005 08:32 AM

It's like those cards that say "How do you keep an idiot in suspense for hours? (Answer on other side)" on both sides.

I love those.

Posted by: Grey Hodge at November 8, 2005 08:42 AM

Well that answers all my questions. Now...which door do you use in case of flood or famine?

Posted by: Chaos at November 8, 2005 09:04 AM

"There. You wanted fire escape signs; now you've got 'em."

Oh... you wanted *useful* signs....

Posted by: Josh Z. at November 8, 2005 09:25 AM

it's like that one wall in Harry Potter at King's Cross station that you have to run straight into to get through.

Posted by: john russell at November 8, 2005 09:33 AM

You know, I think we're failing to follow the thought process that went in to this. He made sure he got two *different* signs.

Imagine if the guy had put up two identical signs. They would both say "fire exit OVER THERE".

Posted by: DaveC426913 at November 8, 2005 09:35 AM

Seems like you need a new contractor. Frankly I would look at any other work he has done to see if it even comes close to being up to life safety code. There is a set way to do a fire exit sign, and from what I can tell neither sign meets this requirement regardless of where the doors in question go.

Posted by: Ray Stevens at November 8, 2005 10:24 AM

um, chaos, you may not realise this but in case of famine you have plenty of time to leave by any door you want. There isn't usually any big hurry unless you are doing something to end the famine; and even then there is no particular need to evacuate any buildings.

Of course there is always the possibility of a food riot. However in that case the need for evacuation depends on where the riot is taking place.

Posted by: Sean P at November 8, 2005 10:33 AM


I'd like to use this image if I could. Please contact me if it's ok.

Posted by: Eddie at November 8, 2005 10:48 AM

Sean P -

Thank you Captain Comment. In case you've not heard, there's a new thing out. It's called "sarcasm".

Posted by: Chaos at November 8, 2005 12:01 PM

Sorry I was just trying to one-up you by playing "The Straight Man". I didn't mean it as an insult.

Posted by: Sean P at November 8, 2005 01:52 PM

Now, now, you two.

Just because somebody has to: NOT BROKEN!

This time I do have a rationale. Disagree with me if you want, but here goes!

The arrows aren't pointing to anything, but just out. It shows a picture of a person in a door, and then an arrow showing him where to go, being outside the building. Basically telling us to keep walking through the door. That's all I have. Thank you for listening.

Posted by: djbjrca at November 8, 2005 03:57 PM

I have to agree (somewhat) with djbjrca. Each individual sign could be correct. Assuming that an exit hallway or stairs lies beyond both doors.

It is the juxtaposition of the two signs that looks odd, but they could be correct.

Posted by: Steve at November 8, 2005 04:04 PM

I could see that being the case. I just didn't see it like that at first. I think the sign is poorly designed. The maufacturer is broken.

Posted by: Chaos at November 8, 2005 04:34 PM

Oh no! It's a fire!


gets knocked out and subsequently burned up.

Posted by: Bob at November 8, 2005 04:54 PM

Also, why do i have to prove i'm human for every post? To my knowledge we've never had problems with spammers before, so why the added (and annoying) security? Is the no-double-post thing not enough?

Posted by: Bob at November 8, 2005 04:56 PM

yeah- djbjrca- you have an excellent point- would you be willing to stand in between the doors to explain the signs to people in need of evacuation during a fire- because that would really help the line of morons that will form in front of the two signs 'trying to read them' in an emergency?

Posted by: smartypants at November 8, 2005 04:58 PM

I thought you were not supposed to run in building fires, at least as I was taught. Stick man in this pic appears to be running.

WALK quickly, no pushing or shoving, single file.

Placing the sign next to the door might be better, unless they are obstructed by the hallway wall.

Posted by: bob dodd at November 8, 2005 05:44 PM

Yes, smartypants, I actually would. As long as I was getting paid fairly well.

Posted by: djbjrca at November 8, 2005 08:31 PM

Djbjrca, you can certainly argue that the signs are explainable and can be figured out. HOWEVER, these are signs that should be designed to be read in an emergency situation. If you can't tell what a fire escape sign means by looking at it right away, it is broken, even if you can puzzle out what it means. If you saw this sign while running away from a fire, what would you do? Most people wouldn't have time to sit down and figure it out just then...

Posted by: Socrates at November 8, 2005 08:49 PM

Maybe it would have been better to put the signs on the other side of the door.

Posted by: Dennis at November 8, 2005 10:10 PM

My first thought was that, if the doors were normally left open, the signs would point in the right direction (out). But, in the left one at least, this would not be the case, as the the arrows would simply point back the way one had come. And since fire escape doors are generally left closed anyway... broken.

Posted by: Ron Mexico at November 8, 2005 11:58 PM

Uh... they'd be great if he put them on the wall where they belong.

One on the wall pointing to the correct door, the other above the other door pointing to the correct door.

Those signs are made for a wall, not a door. If they were made for a door, they wouldn't have arrows.

So, they aren't broken, but the contractor leaves a bit to be desired.

Posted by: g guy at November 9, 2005 01:29 AM

I have to disagree with the people saying that the signs are correct.

First I would give good odds that only one door leads to the outside. I would expect that it is the one straight ahead. That one should have no arrow, or should have an arrow that points straight up. This would indicate that the exit is through the door. The other door normally should have no sign on it.

If by chance they both lead to the outside, then still the signs are wrong. Only one door should be signed and as I said that signing should indicate that the person is to go through the door and not indicate that you go to the side. Only the fastest way out should be signed. If by chance the are two equally fast ways out then one should be chosen, just to avoid confusion as to "now which way do I go"

A competent contractor would have known this and done it right.

Posted by: Ray Stevens at November 9, 2005 08:21 AM

Well, since non of us can come up with an explanation we all agree with, it goes to prove that the signs are confusing and therefore, most definitely broken! :)

Posted by: Chaos at November 9, 2005 09:38 AM

The fact that the text runs into the brown strip on the side of the page is broken too.

Posted by: ME BABY ME at November 9, 2005 01:38 PM

The fact that the text runs into the brown strip on the side of the page is broken too.

Posted by: ME BABY ME at November 9, 2005 01:39 PM

Re: "walk don't run" -

In one high explosives plant in Utah, here are rules 1 and 2.

1. All of our processes and the equipment used for them are extremely well engineered. Nothing can go wrong and you are absolutely safe at all times. The danger of injury, or damaging equipment designed for your safety, is increased by anyone running. Therefore, never run, only walk.

2. Everyone knows rule #1. Therefore if you see anyone running, you know they have a damn good reason, so RUN LIKE HELL!

Posted by: Pat at November 9, 2005 03:58 PM

While the signs themselves are indeed broken, there is a larger "broken" issue here.

So many times, I have seen vague, misleading, or incomplete signage documented signs listed on this site as "broken" items.

As a professional designer of signage and environmental graphics, it seems obvious to me that many of these errors could have been avoided simply by hiring a qualified professional (instead of a contractor) to design a successful signage system.

Many people attempt this task without professional help because they (1) don't wish to spend the money on professional services, or (2) think they can do it themselves. Given the liability, not to mention potential loss of productivity, this is a narrow-minded, self-defeating attitude.

Not hiring professionals to do a professional job - that's what is truly broken here.

Ryan Mayton, CID, ASID, SEGD

Posted by: Ryan Mayton at November 9, 2005 04:08 PM

Ryan, I agree with you, for I also work on many issues that I am not remotely qualified for. I try to hire qualified professionals whenever I can. Especially if they're old buddies.


Posted by: George Bush at November 9, 2005 06:37 PM

A message to all:

I did not mean that I personally think that the signs are correct! I do not! They should be changed! I was just being immature and annoying! Sorry. I take back what I said. These are definitely broken.

Posted by: djbjrca at November 9, 2005 06:57 PM




Posted by: Bob at November 9, 2005 08:37 PM

Sorry Ryan, but I would expect you would not be the person to design this. I don't know what your qualification are, but I would wonder how familure with the life safety code you are???? I would certainly give you that you would undoubtedly do better than this "contractor" who I bet is really a high classed a handy man.

One avoids these problems by following the standards of the life safety code. It has a very detailed (and some times annoyingly detailed) set of rules for doing signage. There is no real design involved. Given a specific situation the signs should be a given set. It is pretty well set down. This setup didn't even come close.

Leave out the really stupid setup of cross pointing signs, I can find at first glance 12 other violations of the way it should have been done. That is without even cracking "the bible".

Posted by: Ray Stevens at November 9, 2005 11:09 PM

Ray -

Actually, as a certified design professional in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I am definitely qualified to design sigange and wayfinding system in accordance to not only life/safety code, but also accessibilty and legibility guidelines.

I don't believe that most life safety code is especially detailed or clear. The anecdotal evidence suggests that if it was clear and detailed, the frequency of these types of signage errors would be greatly diminished. There is certainly room for interpretation of code.

Furthermore, a "code only" approach to the design of a signage system without sensitivity to context, legibilty, and logic will most likely result in a faulty design.

Ryan Mayton

Posted by: Ryan Mayton at November 9, 2005 11:23 PM

This site is hilarious! I love the comments. By the way the signs are BROKEN.

Posted by: Jim at November 11, 2005 12:55 PM

Broken as they may be, what color are the signs?

See my broken sign submission on "Signs":

Posted by: Bryan at November 11, 2005 07:40 PM


First the anecdotal evidence comes from people who do not follow the code. I can't see one part of the signage system that is in use here that follows the code. The code is pretty detailed, and that may be the problem. You actually have to do a considerable amount of reading to get it right. That is if you have read it a few times in the first place.

One of the key componates of the process is to not be creative. It is not enough for an emergency action sign to be legibile and clear in the given situation, it should be the same as all signs everywhere with the same purpose. If I am in a strange building and a fire breaks out I should be instantly able to process in my subconscience that I need an exit, exits in my normal building look like .... There is a sign that looks like the exit signs in my building. OK that is the way out. This process can happen in under a second. If I have to think I need a way out, where is a sign that says "exit". This can take about 4 seconds or more to start the process of looking, several seconds to look at each location that might apply to see if I consciencely see the right word, and then a second or more to calculate what it is meaning. In an emergency time wasted is lives lost.

Posted by: Ray Stevens at November 12, 2005 11:26 AM

Oh my goodness a fire!!!

Ummm where do I go?

Ok eney meny miny mo

*gets burned to a crisp*

Posted by: Josh6=cool at November 23, 2005 11:59 AM

If i were in a hurry because the building was on fire, i would take a look at both of the signs, not stop to think and run straight into the corner of the wall!

Posted by: Ethan Skinner at November 25, 2005 03:37 PM

What people whould do is bring in a bunch of first graders, perform a fire drill, and see if they can figure out where to go. If the majority of them look from one door to the other over and over and/or run around crying banging their heads into the walls there is a good chance that it's broken.

Posted by: Bedlamite at December 8, 2005 05:00 PM

Hey! Wait a minute! That door on the right doesn't seem to have a doorknob. Thus, the logical explination would be that you read them right to left.

Posted by: Alex at January 23, 2006 08:34 PM

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